Free the Nipple is not a movement out to force every woman to go topless wherever men can. It is about giving women the option to be shirtless, free of harassment and judgment. Free the Nipple denounces sexist censorship and harmful double standards. It is about ending the hypersexualization of women’s breasts and bodies.
At what age do we begin sexualizing young girls? At what age do we continue to let boys run around shirtless, but shame girls into covering up? These double standards are harmful for a number of reasons, most of which can lead to shame, insecurity and damaging feelings of inferiority. Here are five reasons we need to Free the Nipple:
If you grow a human you should be able to feed it whenever, wherever and however you please. Not to mention, breastfeeding is the sole purpose of breasts and nipples. There is nothing shameful about breastfeeding one’s baby in public, and the fact that many women are harassed for feeding their baby is absurd. How is it more acceptable to use women’s breasts to sell burgers than to feed babies?
2. Slut Shaming
Breasts are not sexual organs. Can they produce sexual pleasure? Yes. But so can lips, ears, necks, knees, feet, and toes. Is it illegal to be in public without your face mask, earmuffs, turtleneck, long pants, and closed-toed boots? No, because no other body part is sexualized outside of sexual context. We need to stop associating exposed skin with sex. Women should not be shamed for having or exposing their breasts (whether it is to feed their baby or mow their lawn). We need to stop judging women based on how much cleavage they bare. There is zero difference between male and female breasts outside of the fact that women’s breasts serve a pretty important purpose. There are many terrible things a person can be; topless is not one of them.
3. Victim Blaming
Women are often blamed (or blame themselves) for being sexually assaulted. What one was wearing when they were assaulted is totally irrelevant. It doesn’t matter if she was wearing nothing but a thong to the bar — no one is entitled to another person’s body. Ever. It is never the victim’s fault. Sexual assault and violence are always about power. It is never about how big or small one’s top was. No one says, “You were walking in public with a wallet. You were asking for it,” when someone gets mugged. If breast exposure and small clothes caused rape, assaults would skyrocket in the summer. They don't. Cleavage is not an open invitation. Cleavage is not consent.
4. Body Positivity
Because we heavily sexualize women’s breasts (and demonize all things sex), many women are ashamed and insecure about their breasts. Most women are uncomfortable seeing other women’s breasts as well as baring their own ("Orange is the New Black" completely desensitized me). Consequently, many girls and women grow up only seeing surgically altered and photoshopped breasts, which can deepen insecurities. They don’t see the variety in shape, size and symmetry. This is not to say that everyone should be comfortable walking around topless in front of friends and family. What one chooses to do with their body is their choice. But one should not be ashamed of their body and our culture should not enforce said shame. All breasts and bodies are beautiful. There is no ideal. There is no one way breasts should look.
5. Basic Equality
As previously mentioned, telling young girls and women their bodies have to be covered in ways that boys’ bodies don’t is harmful. It instills shame and insecurity that lasts a lifetime. If it is legal and acceptable for men to be shirtless in various public spaces (including online), it should be legal and acceptable for women as well.
It is little known that it has not always been legal for men to be shirtless in public. Men used to be forced to wear nipple-covering swimsuits at public pools and beaches. Eighty years ago, in 1936, men were granted the right to bare their nipples. Men, much like women today, had to protest the outrageousness of calling their nipples "obscene." The group of protesters below was arrested in 1935 at a beach in Atlantic City for “baring their torsos.”
Today, it is still illegal for women to be topless in 35 states. In some states, this includes breastfeeding (meaning it is illegal to feed your baby in public). Even in states that legalized toplessness (looking at you, New York), police officers continue to arrest women for not covering their chests.
Regardless of your position on what amount of clothing is appropriate in public, it is hard to refute that allowing men to expose their chests but not allowing women to do the same is sexist. Women are not objects to be used for commercials and sex. Women are humans and deserve to be treated as such. Our bodies are our own and their existence is not to be possessed, covered or controlled.